To the northeast hot dry winds breathe fury into a beastly fire that engulfs neighbourhoods and propels thousands toward safety and temporary shelter.
Only weeks later, slightly to the northwest, winds pummel heavy, sodden clouds, forcing them to release their payload in a pelting deluge that swells over banks and rips away roads and bridges.
Somewhere in the middle is where I live.
While the land around us felt the aching thirst of impending drought, we were far enough away to be spared the devouring hunger of the flames so devastating to our fellow Albertans. The storm, however, settled in on its haunches for three days, haphazardly pruning our trees, and pouring itself into every conceivable low spot. We were saturated, to be sure, but still only on the fringes of the real destruction an hours’ drive to the west.
Sometimes being in the middle provides a measure of safety.
Sometimes being in the middle, the in-between spaces of life, is messy and hard. “Middle-ness” is everywhere: between hope and despair, expectation and reality, idealism and practicality, past and future, here and there, beginning and end. I am a middle child, not the perfect middle usually associated with odd-numbered siblings, but a ‘middle’ none-the-less, sandwiched between an older brother and the sister next in birth order. Society classifies me as middle-aged – no longer young, but not yet a senior either. Sometimes it feels like the last twenty-odd years of my life have been lived in the middle –either in the middle of something really hard, or in the brief spaces between consecutive really hard things. The pattern has repeated so often that as I sit here still catching my breath from the last Hard Thing, I keep looking to the horizon for ominous signs of the Next Hard Thing. A perpetual middle-ness that has at times left me wary and weary. My soul resonates with Mark Hall when he honestly sings about living in the incongruous place between who we are called to be in Christ and the failure-ridden realities of the daily effects of sin – our own and others’.
Sometimes being in the middle is fertile space for growth and blessing. For those of us living in the more northerly climes, the middle of the year means summer warmth and green growing things – that important space between planting and harvesting. As a school teacher, these middle months also provide a pace of days not measured by bells and marking piles. What resonates most with my soul though is the fact that grace is also most at home in middle-ness – in that space between salvation and sanctification, though not wholly separate from either of them, it brings meaning and purpose to our existence here in the middle between what was and what will yet be. It sustains.
Perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien was more insightful than imaginative when he wrote his epic saga of Middle Earth. Although my lived version is very different than his created one, I think there is a deep truth hidden in the reality of living somewhere in the middle. We were created for greater things, but live with the daily pull of the lesser. Earth is indeed only the middle ground, an in-between place where battles are fought and ground lost or gained, a place where hearts are broken and mended, a place where grace saves and sustains. Ultimate victory, healing, and sanctification await beyond the middle – beyond this messy, hard, humbling, redeeming process of becoming what God has already made a way for us to be.
Somewhere in the middle is where I live. With thankfulness – not the glib, trite, or even politely appropriate kind, but the kind that is fought for daily and arises out of submission to a Sovereign God – for what was, and is, and what will yet be. Sola gratia.